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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-20

Analysis and Annotations



1. The salutation (1 Timothy 1:1-2 )

2. The charge concerning false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-4 )

3. The law, its use, and in contrast with grace (1 Timothy 1:5-11 )

4. Exceeding abundant grace (1 Timothy 1:12-17 )

5. The charge to Timothy, and the danger of shipwreck (1 Timothy 1:18-20 )

1 Timothy 1:1-2

Paul writes as an apostle and mentions the fact that it is “by the commandment of God our Saviour.” Necessity was laid upon him to act and write as an apostle through the energy of the Spirit of God, and therefore all he writes is of great importance, for it is not merely loving advice to his son Timothy, but by commandment of God. The expression “God our Saviour” is peculiar to the First Epistle to Timothy and to the Epistle addressed to Titus. (See 1 Timothy 2:3 ; 1 Timothy 4:10 ; Titus 1:3 ; Titus 2:10 ; Titus 3:4 .) It shows that God’s character towards the world is that of a Saviour through the work of His Son. His grace, bringing salvation, has appeared unto all men, a different thing from what was under the law-dispensation. All men are now the objects of God’s dealing in grace, and therefore we read in the second chapter that supplications, prayers and intercessions be made for all men (not believers only), “for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” We learn from this the meaning of “God our Saviour”; it expresses His love towards the world.

This sovereign mercy of God was the true starting point of all the apostle had to declare. He then salutes his child Timothy, “grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here we find another interesting distinction in the use of the word “mercy.” When greetings are sent by the Holy Spirit to churches, He never mentions mercy, but only “grace and peace,” but when an individual is addressed “mercy” is added. It supposes the need, the constant wants, the difficulties, the trials and the dangers of individual believers. Timothy, in Ephesus, when the grievous wolves came from the outside, and false teachers from the inside, needed mercy, so that he would be kept. As the days grow darker, the departure from the faith becomes more pronounced, individual believers need mercy upon mercy to stand and to withstand. (“Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied” is written in the beginning of the Epistle of Jude. This Epistle pictures the darkest days of departure from the faith with the church still on earth.)

1 Timothy 1:3-4

The apostle had besought Timothy to abide still in Ephesus when he left that city and went to Macedonia. He was to remain behind to charge some that they teach no other doctrine. When Paul had met the elders of Ephesus at Miletus he had made this prediction, “For I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30 ). Then he went to Jerusalem, where he was taken prisoner and sent to Rome. After his release he must have visited Ephesus once more and found the very things in the assembly of Ephesus against which the Holy Spirit had sounded the warning. Timothy was with him at that visit between his first and second imprisonment. He left him behind to deal with false teachers and false doctrines. (The word “doctrine” (teaching) is used eight times in this Epistle.) The better rendering of 1 Timothy 1:4 is, “neither turn their minds to fables and interminable genealogies, which bring questionings rather than God’s dispensation which is in faith.”

The special warning is against fables and interminable genealogies. From the Greek word “muthos,” translated fables, we have our English word “myths.” The warning is undoubtedly aimed at the Gnostic emanations, the invention of “aeons” and the list of their successions. Like the church in Colosse, the church of Ephesus was also invaded by the false teachers of Gnosticism. It was not yet fully developed. That came during the post-apostolic days in the second century. These speculations were not according to sound doctrine and the truth of God. Neither are the present-day myths of evolution, the derivation of one thing from another in an interminable chain, the myths of destructive criticism, of spiritism, theosophy, Christian Science, and other vagaries. Jewish teachings on the perpetual obligation of the Mosaic law, genealogies, and other matters, are likewise included in this warning. They all lead not upon the sure foundation of the dispensation of God, (the dispensation of the grace of God (Ephesians 3:21 ) which is in faith, but to questionings in which there is no profit, but which open the way to a complete rejection of God’s truth and God’s grace made known in the gospel.

1 Timothy 1:5-11

When the apostle used the word “commandment” he does not mean the Ten Commandments. It is the charge the apostle is putting upon his son and fellow-laborer Timothy. What he enjoins is, love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and unfeigned faith. And this is produced not by the law, nor by human imaginations and questionings, but solely by the gospel of grace. Speculative questions or anything else do not act upon the conscience nor bring into the presence of God. An unfeigned faith in Christ clears the conscience from guilt and produces love out of a pure heart. Some had swerved from this, by turning aside from the dispensation of the grace of God unto the vain talk about the law, fables and genealogies. They gave heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men (Titus 1:14 ) and were consequently turned from the truth of the gospel. They aimed at being law-teachers, but they did not understand what they said and what they so strenuously affirmed. They were evidently the same Judaizers, ever insisting upon law-keeping and its ordinances, the false teachers who perverted the gospel, who continually dogged the steps of the apostle and tried to injure the work he was doing.

Then follows a parenthetical statement on the use and purpose of the law. The law is good (Romans 7:12 ) if a man uses it lawfully. Its lawful application is to the lawless and disobedient, to the ungodly and sinners, who are condemned by the law. It has no application to a righteous person. A believer with unfeigned faith and love out of a pure heart and a good conscience is righteous, and has nothing to do with the law. In possession of the righteousness which is apart from the law, having the righteousness of God in Christ, the law has no power over the believer. He is dead to the law; the law can have no possible meaning or use for him. The law was never designed to be the rule for the life of the Christian. He is saved by grace, and that alone can produce godliness. It is grace which teaches to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age, and also gives the power for it.

To use the law is for the believer a denial of grace. He continues: “And if any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” Here we see the contrast between law and gospel. The law is for condemnation, but the gospel proclaims the glory of the blessed God; and this gospel, committed to the apostle, unfolding God’s counsels of glory for us in Christ, tolerates no evil. Sound doctrine is therefore not only a correct belief in the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, what is accomplished in that gospel to the glory of God, and the glory it puts on our side; but sound doctrine means also practical godliness. (See 1 Timothy 6:3 , “The doctrine which is according to godliness.”) A holy life is produced by sound doctrine, and sound doctrine must lead to a holy life. Unsound doctrines, profane and vain babblings, all the unscriptural teachings, the destructive criticism, and the cults “will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:17 ) and eat like a canker.

1 Timothy 1:12-17

And now he speaks of himself, thanking Christ Jesus, Who gave him power and counted him faithful, appointing him to the ministry. And who was he? A blasphemer and persecutor, and injurious. “But I obtained mercy, because I did it in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” The grace which he preached, which he defended against the attacks of Judaizing teachers, was preeminently witnessed to by his own case. The grace of the Lord was towards him exceeding abundant, or more literally rendered, “the grace of our Lord surpassingly overabounded.” He had the most marvellous experience of this grace which saves so freely and fully. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” He knows what he says and of what he speaks.

No fables, imaginations, vain speculations, or questionings here, but the fullest assurance, that Christ Jesus the Son of God came into the world to save sinners. And He had saved him, the chief of sinners, so that no man need to consider himself too great a sinner for this grace. He obtained mercy so that he might be a pattern of the grace that Christ would display towards all “who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.” In a special manner this is applicable to the nation to which Paul belonged; the Jews hereafter, at the time of our Lord’s second coming, will obtain mercy. Paul in his experience is the pattern of the sovereignty of grace which in due time will save “all Israel .” The chief, the most active, the most inveterate of enemies, was the best and most powerful of all witnesses that the grace of God abounded over sin, and that the work of Christ was perfect to put it away. It was the best refutation of the “other doctrines” against which Paul warns in these epistles to Timothy. He then gives utterance to the praise which filled his heart. Such praise the law could never teach the human heart. It knows no song of joy and blessing; its melody is the curse.

“Such was the foundation of Paul’s ministry in contrast with the law. It was founded on the revelation of grace; but it was a revelation connected with the experience of its application to his own case. Peter, guilty of denying a living Saviour, could speak to the Jews of grace that met their case, which was his own; Paul, formerly the enemy of a glorified Saviour and the resister of the Holy Ghost, could proclaim grace that rose above even that state of sinfulness, above all that could flow from human nature--grace that opened the door to the Gentiles according to God’s own counsels, when the Jews had rejected everything, substituting the heavenly assembly for them--grace that sufficed for the future admission of that guilty nation to better privileges than those which they had forfeited” (Synopsis of the Bible).

1 Timothy 1:18-20

He then commits a very solemn charge to Timothy. The charge is “holding faith, and a good conscience.” Some put it away, that is the good conscience, and then concerning faith make shipwreck The faith is sound doctrine, the gospel of grace, the truth of Christianity. A good conscience must be maintained in order to hold that faith in sincerity and truth. Daily self-judgment, even as to the smallest things, is absolutely necessary to keep the believer from the dangerous rocks on which his faith may be wrecked. It may be a very little sin that is allowed and not confessed and put away; but this unjudged sin becomes the starting point of something worse and may lead to terrible results. If a good conscience is put away the believer begins to drift.

“To be in communion with God, the conscience must be good, must be pure; and if we are not in communion with God, we cannot have the strength that would maintain us in the faith, that would enable us to persevere in the profession of the truth, as God gives it to us. Satan has then a hold upon us, and if the intellect of one in this state is active, he falls into heresy. The loss of a good conscience opens the door to Satan, because it deprives us of communion with God; and the active mind, under Satan’s influence, invents ideas instead of confessing the truth of God. The apostle treats the fruit of this state as “blasphemies” ; the will of man is at work, and the higher the subject, the more an unbridled will, possessed by the enemy, goes astray, and exalts itself against God, and against the subjection of the whole mind to the obedience of Christ, to the authority of the revelation of God” (J.N. Darby).

We have here an explanation why men who used to hold the faith delivered unto the saints have given up that faith. Error does not begin with the head but with the heart. Some sin was cherished; some secret sin had control. Self judgment was not exercised; no confession made. Having no good conscience, there was no longer real communion with God and the shipwreck of faith followed in due time. Hymenaeus and Alexander, who denied resurrection, were examples of this fatal road. He delivered them over to Satan, not to be lost, but for discipline. They were to find out by sad and sorrowful experience what Satan’s power is, so that broken and humbled they might be brought back. “Better surely not to need such discipline; but if we do need it, how precious to know that God turns it into account in His grace, that we might be thoroughly dealt with and exercised in the conscience” (Wm. Kelly).

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/1-timothy-1.html. 1913-1922.
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